In an exclusive interview, Mr. Mohamed Khalil, the Chief Commercial Officer for Bahrain Airport Company talks about how Bahrain International Airport’s fast, efficient airport services coupled with a friendly customer-centric culture, makes the airport a popular transit hub for passengers. He also discusses various customer feedback mechanisms in place at the airport and future plans for expansion to further improve the passenger experience.
What is the approximate number of passengers travelling through Bahrain International Airport annually?
Mohamed Khalil: This year, we have already witnessed a 10% increase in passenger numbers up until October 2014 in comparison to the same period last year; this translates to over 6 million people passing through our airport between January and September this year. As per the updated forecasts, we anticipate 8 million passengers to pass through BIA by the end of the year. This signifies a remarkable recovery for BIA and we see this trend continuing throughout 2015 and possibly 2016.
What are your processes for facilitating passengers when it comes to long queues at immigration and passport control?
Mohamed Khalil: We are committed to maintaining speed and efficiency of service throughout the airport’s operations and this is felt from the minute one enters Bahrain International Airport until they board their plane or exit the terminal. Passenger movement is facilitated through a range of processes including self-service e-gates for smart-card holders and dedicated counters that cater to different types of travelers and nationalities. An effective queue-management and monitoring system is also adopted by the Immigration authorities to ensure reduced waiting time and quick service.
Please tell us about your latest customer feedback initiative with the launching of ‘happy or not’ kiosks throughout the airport. What services at the airport do you find passengers most satisfied with?
Mohamed Khalil: In an effort to continuously improve the passenger travel experience, BAC introduced the HappyOrNot® kiosks at the arrival and departure halls; this new customer-friendly tool enables BAC to monitor performance levels across key areas of the airport operations and benchmark against the highest industry standards. This is a first of its kind technology in Bahrain and provides BAC with real-time feedback on areas such as shopping experience, food & beverage, efficiency of check-in and immigration services as well as general cleanliness and up-keeping of the communal areas. The kiosks are an effective tool in facilitating BAC’s efforts to enhance passenger satisfaction at BIA. Feedback has shown that passengers are most satisfied with the speed and efficiency of our service.
What factors in your opinion set Bahrain Airport apart from other airports in the region?
Mohamed Khalil: Boasting a long-standing history in aviation, Bahrain International Airport (BIA) has proudly upheld its reputation as an ideal transit hub in the region since its inception as the first airport to open in the Arabian Gulf in the early 1920s; strategically located at the heart of the Gulf and offering unparalleled service to the millions of travelers passing through its gates, BIA continues to be one of the most traveled through airports in the region by popular choice.
BIA prides itself in being a friendly and efficient airport with service-oriented employees; Customer satisfaction is a top-of-mind priority and can be felt from the moment you arrive at the terminal where you are immediately greeted with friendly smiles. The warmth and assistance received at BIA reflects Bahrain’s welcoming culture and is an intrinsic characteristic of the BIA staff who were rightly voted as Middle East’s Best Airport Staff by SKYTRAX 2013.
Connectivity, efficiency and a convenient travel experience are also among the main strengths of BIA. At present, there are 42 major airlines flying out of BIA and servicing over 46 destinations globally with plans for additional routes and connections to be introduced in the near future. This provides travelers with a wide destination choice and many connectivity options.
Processes are also very efficient and it is extremely fast and easy to move in and out of the terminal building. Once you arrive, it’s a matter of minutes at the immigration desk and the baggage collection area before you can leave the airport. The convenience and ease of movement when traveling through BIA are its key differentiators and provide BIA with a competitive advantage vis-à-vis the mega airports in the region. This has also enabled us to meet our promise of providing an exceptional travel experience, especially for business travelers who look for ease of movement that cannot be found in the overwhelming mega airports.
What services do you have in place to make passengers feel welcome and comfortable at the airport?
Mohamed Khalil: BIA has continuously sought to improve its service offerings and provide an unparalleled experience for passengers traveling through the terminal. There are three business lounges for passengers looking to relax and numerous food and beverage outlets to choose from. Bahrain Duty Free is also an element of pride for the airport and provides most of the major brands in cosmetics, jewelry and fashion that appeal to both transit passengers and last minute shoppers. An extensive electronics and children’s toy section is also available as well as a traditional area featuring Bahrain-made items including jalabiyas, perfumes, dates and artwork.
The airport has also launched its revamped website which provides a set of e-services that further enhance the travel experience for passengers. The new and improved website has won several internationally renowned awards with the most recent being the Bahrain e-Content Award 2013 in the e-Culture & Tourism category.
What visa facilities are available at the airport for passengers in long transits who may want to leave the airport to sightsee through the city while they wait?
Mohamed Khalil: Visa facilities at the airport are very flexible and most nationalities can get a visa upon arrival. Passengers are advised to visit evisa.gov.bh for full details of the visa facilities available for passengers traveling through BIA.
Bahrain Airport became the recipient of a number of awards in the past year. What customer service measures were in place which have made the difference?
Mohamed Khalil: Customer service is measured against a set of operative KPIs that are monitored on a regular basis to ensure we maintain high satisfaction levels across all passenger categories. We have also introduced a customer feedback system where passengers are able to raise complaints or make suggestions for further improvements.
The airport operation is ISO 9001:2008 certified to ensure continuous improvement.
Do you have any online services available for answering passenger queries or gathering feedback to evaluate overall passenger experience regarding the airport services?
Mohamed Khalil: We welcome passenger feedback and have a dedicated section on the Bahrain International Airport website where passengers can send us their feedback. Passenger queries are also addressed through the same channel. We also encourage passengers to fill in a suggestion form and place it in the allocated boxes that are widely available throughout the terminal building. We place great emphasis on what passengers have to say since their feedback and support help us continuously improve our services.
What customer complaint mechanisms are in place at Bahrain Airport?
Mohamed Khalil: Passengers can make a complaint through our online portal or complete a complaints form and place it in the allocated boxes available around the terminal building. The forms are reviewed on a frequent basis and we make sure to address each complaint separately.
What kind of VIP or Executive services and facilities does the airport have for VIP passengers?
Mohamed Khalil: We have four VVIP lounges at the airport terminal offering the highest in comfort and facilities and a well-trained staff base to provide the highest level of service to our guests. BIA also offers the Marhaba meet and greet service which provides unique services for VIPs and CIPs at competitive rates.
What kind of facilities do you have in place for elderly and disabled passengers?
Mohamed Khalil: BIA caters to the needs of the elderly and the disabled passengers wherever possible at the terminal. We offer allocated parking slots close to the terminal building and dedicated check in counters exclusively designed for passengers with special needs. There are also restroom provisions for the disabled located at both the arrival and departure concourse. A wheelchair service is also available upon request.
Which do you agree with, ‘Service with speed?’ or ‘Service with a smile?’
Mohamed Khalil: Speedy service with a smile!
Please tell us about your future expansion plans and what facilities will be incorporated to further enhance the customer experience?
Mohamed Khalil: Under the guidance of the Ministry of Transportation, Bahrain Airport Company has embarked on the Airport Modernization Program (AMP), an ambitious venture to modernize and transform BIA into a world-class facility by 2018, in line with the Kingdom’s national vision and reputation as a leading financial, cultural and aviation center in the GCC.
The AMP will increase passenger handling capacity to 14 million passengers per annum and elevate BIA’s infrastructure, services and facilities, to enhance passenger experience and solidify BIA’s competitive advantage in the region as a significant aviation hub.
The first phase of the AMP is already underway and includes immediate enhancement work being done to the existing terminal, including new air bridges and scanning machines which were installed earlier this year, as well as other cosmetic improvements. The second phase will include further improvements in the infrastructure based on projected demand growth and more details will be announced in due course. The new terminal is due for completion in 2018.
The new terminal will offer passengers all the comforts, amenities and services found in global airports with efficiency and friendliness as the guiding principles.
About Mohamed Khalil:
As a Chief Commercial Officer at Bahrain Airport Company, Mohamed Khalil is responsible for developing the company’s commercial standing and marketing Bahrain International Airport to a broader audience. Accordingly he manages the Aviation Marketing, Property and Retail, Passenger Services and Cargo departments.
With a wealth of experience spanning over 12 years and a proven track record of successes in real estate development and investment, construction and project management, contracts management and strategic planning, Khalil boasts an impeccable grasp of the market dynamics which he utilizes in propelling BAC to achieve its business objectives.